In When the Devil, Libby finds salvation in a new sapphic partner, homebrewed poison, and facing a God she no longer believes in.
Thank you to Shortwave Publishing for shooting over an ARC copy in return for an honest review. “When The Devil” is released on the 7th May 2024.
In this sapphic, Southern tale of love, murder and liberation, we learn that revenge is sweet, and best served with a generous dollop of girl power. I was truly impressed by the volume of content within such a small number of pages- and genuinely challenge readers to not devour the entire novelette within one sitting. It’s addictive, satisfying and an all-round must-read. I look forward to the release of “Crushing Snails,” in August 2024!
We follow Libby, a young woman who has never truly known freedom. She is first raised by her grandfather under the rule of an iron-fist, and following the then cardinal sin of premarital sex, is forced to enter into an unhappy marriage. Her abusive husband Travis makes her life a living hell, beating her black and blue, and not even allowing her to attend the funeral of her Grandmother. Then comes June. Having been kicked out of her home by her father, June is helping her Aunt Eileen out, as a farmhand on the McCallum property. The two meet whilst Travis is away on “business,” and despite her best efforts, Libby begins to fall for her. However, following an interaction with local pervert and certified asshole Buck- which leaves him dead on the floor- it seems there’s more to Libby’s new friend than meets the eye.
“When The Devil,” is primarily a critique of extreme religion. We read from the perspective of Libby who has an internal battle over the morality of her budding, homosexual relationship with June. The religious turmoil our protagonist experiences, is (in my view) a commentary on the stifling nature of strict adherence to religion, and how autonomy, diversity and happiness must be prioritised.
Murray also heavily critiques the treatment of women, and the male-dominated society at the time. Both protagonists are incredibly strong females. Within 48 pages, the couple encounter three male antagonists: Buck, Travis and Libby’s grandfather. The terrible trio provide an insight as to the abuse women received (and still receive) but are also used to demonstrate that these “men,” are weak. June and Libby are able to overcome each obstacle thrown at them, despite the objectively sexist society they were living in. “When The Devil,” highlights the resilience and fortitude of women (past and present) in the face of oppression.
See what I mean? On the surface, Murray delivers a satisfying yet simple narrative, but if you take a closer look, there’s some truly sophisticated and complex commentary on some very current issues. May I remind you, all of this comes in the form of a 48 page novelette? Impressive stuff.
The prose is refreshing and original. We see the world through Libby’s eyes in a first person narrative tinged with Southern charm- and this is reflected in her diction and dialect. Whilst it does take a minute to adjust to, once you do it’s smooth sailing, and a whole lot of fun. You’ll probably fly through it as fast as I did.
The ending truly brought a smile to my face, and I can guarantee it will bring one to yours too. That’s all I’m gonna say… you should just read it.
I would recommend this for most readers. Whilst it certainly falls into the category of horror, it’s pretty easy on the gore, and won’t haunt your nightmares forever. Plus it’s a real page-turner, and action-packed from beginning to end, so boredom is not on the menu. For these reasons, I’d argue this is great for any readers looking to dip their toes in the horror water. It would also be the perfect remedy for a reading slump.
In conclusion, Emma E Murray’s latest is a devilishly (forgive the pun) good time, that packs quite the punch. With its excellent character development, charming prose, and rewarding denouement, “When The Devil,” proves that good things do indeed come in small packages. Mark your calendars for the 7th May, and prepare to sink into a tale that is both satisfying and spine-tingling.